The Jefferson Middle School Eagles won the City Championship for the second year in a row, beating the Robertsville Middle School Rams 16-12 in a game of fourth-quarter drama on Blankenship Field on Thursday.
Jefferson took the lead late in the first quarter and held it until midway through the fourth quarter, when the Eagles led by 8-6.
But then RMS sixth-grader Jayden Williams intercepted a JMS pass at about the Eagles 25 and weaved his way into the end zone, giving Robertsville its first lead of the evening, a 12-8 lead with 4:27 remaining.
But after the two-point conversion failed, the Eagles regained the lead 17 seconds later, when eighth-grader Jonathan Stewart, who scored both touchdowns for Jefferson, returned a kickoff for six points.
This time, the Eagles kept the lead for good. Jefferson quarterback Mitchell Gibbons, who also played defense, intercepted Robertsville quarterback Ky Hirsch on the Rams’ next and final drive, helping to preserve the Eagles’ win.
Jefferson scored on its first drive, moving 55 yards in eight plays and scoring on a 19-yard reception from Gibbons to Stewart, who dove inside the right pylon at 3:02 in the first quarter. The Eagles made it 8-0 on a keeper by Gibbons.
Neither team was able to score on its next two possessions, and the score remained 8-0 at halftime.
Robertsville scored quickly in the second half, striking on a second-and-one from the 45 on a pass from Hirsch to wide receiver Timothy Williams, who was ahead of his defender. The two-point conversion failed, and the Eagles stayed ahead 8-6.
Neither team scored again during its next two possessions. Then, the lead quickly changed twice in less than 20 seconds on the interception that Williams returned for a touchdown, giving Robertsville the 12-8 lead, and the kickoff that Stewart ran in for a score, giving the final 16-12 lead to Jefferson—after another two-point conversion on a Gibbons keeper.
“What a way to end the game,” Robertsville Coach James Branson said.
“Be proud of the way you played tonight,” he told the Rams.
Jefferson Coach Brian Wilson said it’s the first time that the Eagles have won the City Championship two years in a row. Last year, the Eagles had Jack Replogle at quarterback. This year, they had Gibbons.
Leadership, team captains, and Gibbons made the difference this year, Wilson said.
“We have six guys that refused to lose,” he said.
Stewart is a real playmaker, Wilson said.
“He’s an athlete,” Wilson said. “He’s the type of player that likes to play on the big stage.”
One Robertsville drive was stopped by Matthew Swigert, who batted down a Rams pass, Wilson said.
The win, the attitude, and effort are good for JMS, Wilson said. So are the administrators and boosters.
Speaking of the fourth-quarter interception that gave RMS the lead, Branson said Jefferson had “been killing them in the flats,” but that time Robertsville had it covered.
The earlier third-quarter pass over the top from Hirsch to Timothy Williams was a perfect catch-and-run, Branson said.
His team faced adversity this season—at one point they had three linemen with injuries for about three games and a running back who couldn’t play the rest of the season—but the players could be pushed, Branson said. He said he’s pleased with the progress from a personal player perspective.
“They’re the hardest-working guys I’ve worked with,” Branson said. “This is a great group of guys that Coach Gaddis is going to get.”
Coach Joe Gaddis is the Wildcats football coach.
Branson said Grace and CAK will play for the regional middle school championship this week.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See more photos from the game here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.